Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The KISS method to language acquisition

When Bunny was here her method for learning Thai was to either copy whatever she'd heard (leading her to believe that the phrase for "fried rice" was in actuality the phrase for "how much") or to invent crazy sentences that were fun to learn, like "Rebecca's boyfriend's dog can't swim." (regardless of the fact that no, I don't have a boyfriend, if I did he probably wouldn't have a dog, but if he did the dog would almost certainly know how to swim). To her credit, Bunny can say "Are you eating cookies behind me?" in Mandarin, and "Your eyes are delicious." in Greek.

Now I'm not going to say her method of learning new languages is *wrong* per se. but that it's probably more entertaining as a linguistic exercise than actually helpful when trying to survive in a country that speaks that language. While she seemed to understand a great deal more Thai than I could, judging by our success in restaurants, my Thai was more easily understood.

This is also the approach I take in teaching. Communication is more important than showing off.

Here are two examples from the test I gave on Saturday. The instructions are "Write about what you are doing next weekend. Say what you are doing / where you are going and why."

1. Next weekend, I'm going to Central with my friend at Bangkok. We're shopping. We will buy something When we need And we will buy the Book. And on Sunday come back to Rayong. We going to the beach at Pattaya. I want to play spreed boat. I love Bangkok and Pattaya. And I love to shopping. *

2. Next weekend I'm going to buy a new book at the bookstore because I want to read a new book.

Guess who got a 10 out of 10?

TAG: Code Watermelon

*for the love of Pete, I don't know how many times I've tried to teach the phrase "go shopping"


IamSusie said...

YES! This is why I gave up on my Spanish minor in college. At the time I could talk all around a subject using my creative vocabulary decsriptions, but I couldn't figure out the subjunctive tense.

Bezzie said...

Huh. I wonder if shopping is just an American pasttime?

Rebel said...

Susie- yeah learning a new language is NOT easy!

Bezzie - oh no, they do plenty of shopping here (Bangkok has by far the swankiest mall complex I've ever seen, and there are street markets everywhere you turn), it's just that they say "go to shopping" instead of "go shopping" and nothing any of the teachers say can get them to unlearn that.